Preview - Connecticut vs Pittsburgh

UConn looks to halt a three-game losing streak as it travels to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers in Big East Conference play. UConn has lost three straight games, including a 45-13 thumping just down the road at the hands of conference leader West Virginia a week ago Wednesday. Pitt is 4-5 and playing its final home game of the season. A victory today would keep the Panthers' hopes for a bowl bid alive, though they must also win at West Virginia on Thanksgiving night to accomplish that goal.

Here's how the Huskies can get things turned around Saturday:

 

TURN 'EM LOOSE

 

If D.J. Hernandez gets the start at quarterback, let him run wild. Of course, that assumes that the offensive line will provide some sort of protection/blocking, and that's a mighty large leap of faith to make during these troubling times. But Pittsburgh's defensive line, while no Liberty, isn't on par with West Virginia, or even Rutgers. Yardage will be only somewhat difficult to gain, not impossible.

 

Letting Hernandez roll out, then choose to pass or run, will drive Pitt crazy. Do you think Tyler Palko will be standing in the pocket like Dan Marino all afternoon? Of course not. Hernandez may not be the passer Palko is, but he's got better moves and he's just as tough. Let him run and see how the rest of the offense opens up as a result.

 

Besides, even if Hernandez gets splattered, at least now we know Dennis Brown can come in and provide decent, if not breathtaking, relief.

 

CHUCK IT AROUND

 

If Dennis Brown gets the start at quarterback, let him whip the ball to all four corners of Heinz Field. Of course, that assumes that the offensive line will provide some sort of protection/blockiing, and ... you know the rest. The kid can throw, and while the game is being played on the Steelers' home field, Pitt's secondary is hardly NFL-caliber. UConn has made it quite clear over the past couple of games that it can't run the ball. So try something different and set up the run with the pass, instead of vice versa. "The usual" isn't working anymore.

 

Besides, even if the Huskies do pass the ball 45 times and turn the game into a four-hour grinder that puts more pressure on the defense, at least UConn is using a punter this week (Chris Pavasaris) who won't automatically give the opposition juicy field position.

 

TURN UP THE HEAT

 

The pressure is all on Pitt today. It needs to win for a variety of reasons, none more important than to save face and keep some hope alive during what has been a less-than-impressive beginning to the Dave Wannstedt era in the Steel City.

 

With that in mind, UConn should be in Tyler Palko's face whenever possible. If the Huskies can force the junior quarterback into some rash decisions, the score could very well stay close right down to the wire. Pitt could get a little antsy, allowing UConn to pounce on hastily thrown passes or desperation gadget plays that fool no one. Palko has been sacked 27 times, so it's not like the Pitt offensive line has a future guarding Fort Knox., or even Courteney Cox.

 

If UConn wants to sit back and wait for Palko to pick it apart, that's just what's going to happen. But by moving Dahna Deleston and marvelous Marvin Taylor up into the box and relying on corners Darius Butler (speaking of marvelous) and Tyvon Branch to handle Greg Lee and Co. in single coverage, which is no easy task, the Huskies could make something happen.

 

That would be a pleasant change.

 


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